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Self-Help Civil ADR Overview

This page tells you about:

  1. ADR options you can find at court
  2. Who to talk to about your ADR options
  1. ADR options you can find at Court

    The Court can refer you to:


    In mediation, a neutral person (called a “mediator”) helps you and the other parties to understand what each of you want from the case, and how you can all reach your goals. The mediator will also explain the practical and legal questions you all have to answer. The mediator helps you explore options and agree on a solution that everyone will accept.

    The process is informal and confidential. The mediator helps you make your own decisions. Mediation is a good choice when you and the other parties:

    • want to work together
    • have a business or personal relationship you want to keep
    • have strong feelings that are getting in the way of solving the problem, and/or
    • want a kind of solution that doesn’t involve money, like asking someone to change the way they act.

    View a brief slideshow presentation on the mediation process: How to Settle Your Dispute without Going to Trial . You can also watch a video that explains how mediation can help you resolve your case. Visit the Self-Help Video page video icon on this website.

    To learn more, see the ADR Mediation & Evaluation page.

    Neutral Evaluation (NE):

    In neutral evaluation, a neutral person (called an “Evaluator”) listens to you and the other parties and reads your short written statements. Then, the Evaluator gives an opinion on the strong and weak points of each party's case.

    The evaluator’s opinion can help you understand the most important legal issues in your case, prepare stipulations (agreements), draft discovery plans, and give you an idea of the value and likely result if your case went to trial.

    This process is informal and can help you and the other parties solve your problems. Neutral Evaluation is a good option when you and the other parties:  

    • are far apart in what you think of the law or value of the case
    • have a case that involves a technical issue about which the evaluator has special knowledge
    • need help to plan your case, to save on legal fees and costs, or
    • are interested in a kind of solution that doesn’t involve money; like, having someone change the way they act.

    To learn more, see the ADR Mediation & Evaluation page.


    In Arbitration, a neutral person (called the “arbitrator”) hears the evidence and the arguments of the parties, then makes a decision on your case. The arbitrator can be a judge or a private neutral.

    You and the parties can agree to binding (final) or non-binding (advisory) arbitration. If you choose binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision will be final and you will not go to trial. You cannot appeal a binding arbitration decision.

    If you choose non-binding arbitration, either you or the other party can reject the arbitrator’s decision and ask for a trial. Arbitration may be a good option when you and the other parties want:  

    • witnesses to testify under oath, or
    • a (non-binding) opinion from an experienced trial lawyer, or
    • if the only thing you are asking for is money, which is called “damages”.

    Arbitration is usually informal.

    To learn more about court-sponsored arbitration, see the ADR Judicial Arbitration page.

    Early Settlement Conference:

    If your case involves only damages (a claim for money), the judge can order an Early Settlement Conference if both parties agree. In an early settlement conference, a judge or temporary judge will work with you and the other parties to encourage a settlement.

    To learn more, see the ADR Early Settlement Conference page.

    Special Masters and Referees:

    If a case is very complicated, the court can appoint a Special Master and Referee. This is an experienced lawyer or a retired judge who will make a decision about some parts of the case, and schedule discovery (fact finding) hearings. Special Masters and Referees often have settlement conferences to try and help the parties to settle the whole case.

    To learn more, see the ADR Special Masters and Referees page.

    Mandatory Settlement Conference:

    Mandatory Settlement Conferences are informal meetings held at court. They are held in every case that would take more than one day in trial, usually the week before the trial date is set. The neutral person (a judge or an experienced lawyer) meets with you and the other parties or your attorneys at the Courthouse.

    The neutral hears both sides of the dispute, and encourages you to come to a resolution that is acceptable for all of you. Settlement conferences can be effective when the authority or expertise of a neutral helps the parties find a resolution.

    To learn more, see the ADR Mandatory Settlement Conference page.


  2. Who to talk to about your ADR options

    In our county you can contact the ADR Administrator. Look for the ADR Administrator's number in the Civil section of the court's phone list. For business hours of the ADR Administrator, see the business hours section on the web page for the Downtown Superior Court.

    The ADR Administrator has a list of mediators, neutral evaluators, and private arbitrators. You can view and search these lists from the Civil Division ADR Providers section of this website. The ADR Administrator can also give you more information about the different kinds of ADR and help you or your lawyers decide what kind of ADR is best for your case. The ADR Administrator cannot give legal advice, or help you fill out forms.

More Self-Help ADR Information on this website

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